A homeless man who had been living in the woods off an interstate highway in Williston, Vermont, witnessed a horrific incident and sprang into action to save the life of the man who was behind the wheel.
On May 4, truck driver Paul Bristol suffered a sudden, serious heart attack, causing him to veer into the left lane, “bunny hopping” along the guardrail for some 300 feet, according to the Burlington Free Press.
James Pocock, who had been living right off the highway for the past couple months, remembers a cloud of concrete dust as the truck hit the guardrail. He quickly ran to the scene and found Bristol, 68, breathless and without a pulse — so he began CPR.
After miraculously surviving, Bristol received six stents in blocked arteries and was able to travel from New Hampshire, where he lives, to attend an award ceremony on Wednesday for the man who saved him.
“I remember looking down into his throat, hearing his last breath, that was all stuck in my mind,” Pocock told the outlet. “I just kept reliving it, even though I knew he had pulled through.”
But when he went to visit him in the hospital, his frightening memory turned into a fond one.
“Once I met him, all that reliving stopped, immediately replaced by hearing him laugh,” he said. “Now instead of focusing on his last breath I could replace it with someone smiling and giggling.”
According to the newspaper, Pocock — who was a firefighter and EMT in California over 20 years ago —learned CPR as a Boy Scout and then later on his life when he trained and served as an instructor at the American Red Cross.
To thank Pocock, Bristol — who says that his family and Pocock’s family are now part of each other’s lives — went to Walmart and bought him a pillow and other supplies for his camp.
“We’re all friends on Facebook now,” Bristol said. “We talk to him all the time.”
After local resident, Lynnea Nichols, heard about Pocock she felt like she had to do something. On Thursday morning she set up a GoFundMe page to raise enough money to help him get a place to live.
“Everyone I know is trying to share it with their friends,” Nichols told the newspaper. “And I reached out to the family of Mr. Bristol, because if anyone can help, it’s them. If ever there was a time to try this, now would make sense. He’s an incredibly grateful person.”
A plaque will be placed on the wall at the Williston Fire Department’s station to commemorate his heroic action.
“One action at one moment in time has had a ripple effect on everybody in this room,” according to the fire department’s public information officer, Prescott Nadeau. “James, your actions were incredibly important. It will forever be remembered in this department and by the people in this community.”